The Times West Virginian

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March 7, 2013

Leaders must resolve their disagreements over education

Disagreement has certainly surfaced over parts of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed overhaul of West Virginia’s public education system.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, said emotion will surely be in the mix when discussing the nearly 200-page bill introduced on behalf of Tomblin.

“That’s natural when you have bills of this nature and of this magnitude,” Plymale said.

All sides, though, know that the status quo is not acceptable.

Education, you will recall, dominated Tomblin’s State of the State address last month. It came in the wake of the state’s Education Efficiency Audit that con­trasted hefty spending — the proposed budg­et will devote $2 billion to public schools, or 46 percent of general tax and lottery rev­enues — with poor student performance rankings.

The governor conceded that “good things” are happening in West Virginia schools but that “our student achievement is falling behind — and that is not acceptable.”

Among the alarming statistics — a state graduation rate of 78 percent and the highest percentage of young people ages 16 to 19 not engaged in school or the workforce.

Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, was critical of many parts of the bill during an Education Committee meeting in Charleston on Tuesday.

At the same time, The Associated Press reported, she expressed strong support for provisions that would expand pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds statewide, seek to make sure that all third-graders are reading at grade level, offer teachers in critical-need subjects and communities college loans, cover the $1,150 renewal fee for nationally certified teachers, and beef up vocational-technical training.

The State Journal reported that West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, while expressing concerns, referenced a yet-unseen committee substitute to the bill that is coming from negotiations with Tomblin’s staff, Education Committee staff and education stakeholders.

Teachers, rightfully, don’t want to accept an unreasonable part of the blame for West Virginia’s difficulties with education.

Hale noted that the state also rates poorly for health. Yet no one is alleging that that’s because West Virginia has bad hospitals or doctors, Hale said.

However, it’s critical that the state find a way to get the best teachers in the classroom and ensure sufficient resources are directed there.

“Current hiring practices in our state do not guarantee that the best teacher is the one actually selected for the job,” Tomblin said. “In fact, in many cases, it prevents otherwise good teachers from even qualifying for the job.”

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia’s concern that the state has lost 700 classroom teachers over the last decade while the number of administrators and other non-teaching professionals has grown by more than 1,000 should be addressed. Hale also said that the salary gap between teachers and top administrators widened during that time. She presented the figures Wednesday with Jackee Long of the School Service Personnel Association. Both, according to The Associated Press, called on lawmakers to focus more on the education system’s bureaucracy.

As we noted following the State of the State speech, we trust good ideas will be exchanged and debated in good faith both behind closed doors and in public, including when the Education Committee meets again today.

Tomblin continues to express optimism that education reform will pass this session. It’s a matter so important that West Virginia simply can’t afford to fail.


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    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community

    Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
    Marion County is full of volunteers.
    They read to our youth.
    They assist nonprofit agencies.
    They serve on boards and committees.
    And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law

    West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.

    April 9, 2014

  • Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region

    Mere minutes often matter when it comes to emergency health care.
    That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.
    When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.

    April 6, 2014

  • COLUMN: Fairmont General Hospital vital part of community

    There’s nothing better than holding a newborn baby. It gives you a little feeling that not only is everything right in the world, but this perfect little human represents hope of a future where things will be better than they are today.
    I had that blessed opportunity to hold that hopeful future in my arms last week when I visited my dear friend Jen and her newborn son Tristan at Fairmont General Hospital.

    April 6, 2014

  • Putting a cost on safety issue has been culprit in 13 traffic deaths

    Would you believe that an item costing just 57 cents — less than the price of a can of pop — is being cited as the culprit in 13 traffic deaths?
    A simple 57-cent item.
    That’s how much fixing the fatal ignition switches that General Motors installed in new automobiles would have cost, and 13 lives would probably have been saved.

    April 4, 2014

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